One of my favorite ways to start the day is at the counter of Starbucks ordering a grande triple shot caramel macchiato and a spinach and feta breakfast wrap, but I ALWAYS ask to substitute the cage free eggs with just regular eggs…

I am usually met with a look of question, not only from the barista but also all the people in line with me…and the response is a disappointed, “I’m sorry, we can’t do that, ma’am.”  I then smile and ask them to please pass my message on to corporate that I would like the choice.  Then I have a captive audience for the next 20 seconds where I explain that I want the eggs from the chickens grown in cages fed corn because I have raised chickens and I know how much they like to eat things out of the dirt, including bugs, grubs, etc…but I also have friends who have some really nice chicken barns with cages that grow very healthy, happy birds too.

It’s time to speak up.

Did you know we have more bus drivers in our country than farmers?  There is a large audience to talk to about food production who have never actually “been there and done that.” We now live in a time when marketing that plays on emotions and the opinions of journalists trump solid peer-reviewed science every single day.

All of this well-funded creative marketing wants consumers to buy the latest and greatest: organic, natural, GMO free, rBst free, cage free, hormone free, antibiotic  free, humanely raised, responsibly produced, and the list could go on and on…but all of this strategic play on words and labels comes at the expense of consumers’ trust in agriculture.  The latest buzz word must be good and conventional must be bad. The story of agriculture is being told by people selling stories, not by those actually involved in agriculture every day.

Another one of my favorite things to do is go to the grocery store either on Friday afternoon at 5:30 or Sunday after church at noon.  Some of my very best conversations about farming and food happen then!  It is so easy to strike up a conversation with someone comparing labels in the dairy aisle or meat counter and ask if they have any questions.  I tell them I am simply a mom who understands the importance of feeding my family the healthiest food and I get the great opportunity to work on different farms every day.  I can share my perspective on different farming practices because I have seen it all.  The real tragedy is how truly scared people have become of food when we are producing the safest food in history, using less resources than ever before.  My mission at every visit to the grocery store is to give people permission to not fear their food.

It’s time to speak up.

I am proud of conventional agriculture and not afraid to feed my family conventional food.  I see how the animals are raised every day and how the land is cared for.  I have friends who are organic farmers, but I would never pay more for the food they produce. The biggest misconception is that a label means something is safer or healthier.  A great example of this is the fact that added steroids and hormones aren’t even allowed in poultry production in the United States, yet consumers continually pay a premium for “hormone-free” chicken in the grocery store.

I truly believe that it doesn’t matter what production method is used when it is really the human element that makes all the difference.  I always encourage people to visit a farm if they have questions about agriculture instead merely relying on the internet.  I could take you to visit a beautiful 35 cow dairy or a beautiful 3,500 cow dairy.  Both use very different management practices, but both provide safe high quality food. If the farmers that I have visited for the past 15 years choose to do their job by responsibly using antibiotics, gmo’s, r-Bst, cages, barns, etc,… I feel they should be able to.  I don’t ever want to be forced to pay more for food with a fancy label when I understand the safety of conventionally raised food and get to see it every day.

I am proud of agriculture today.  You should be too.  Share the real story. It’s time to speak up.